Development of a transformation system for sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.)

Sant, Rajnesh R. Prasad (2012) Development of a transformation system for sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.). PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) is the world’s fifth major cereal crop and holds importance as a construction material, food and fodder source. More recently, the potential of this plant as a biofuel source has been noted. Despite its agronomic importance, the use of sorghum production is being constrained by both biotic and abiotic factors. These challenges could be addressed by the use of genetic engineering strategies to complement conventional breeding techniques. However, sorghum is one of the most recalcitrant crops for genetic modification with the lack of an efficient tissue culture system being amongst the chief reasons. Therefore, the aim of this study was to develop an efficient tissue culture system for establishing regenerable embryogenic cell lines, micropropagation and acclimatisation for Sorghum bicolor and use this to optimise parameters for genetic transformation via Agrobacterium-mediated transformation and microprojectile bombardment.

Using five different sorghum cultivars, SA281, 296B, SC49, Wray and Rio, numerous parameters were investigated in an attempt to establish an efficient and reproducible tissue culture and transformation system. Using immature embryos (IEs) as explants, regenerable embryogenic cell lines (ECLs) could only be established from cultivars SA281 and 296B. Large amounts of phenolics were produced from IEs of cultivars, SC49, Wary and Rio, and these compounds severely hindered callus formation and development. Cultivar SA281 also produced phenolics during regeneration. Attempts to suppress the production of these compounds in cultivars SA281 and SC49 using activated charcoal, PVP, ascorbic acid, citric acid and liquid filter paper bridge methods were either ineffective or had a detrimental effect on embryogenic callus formation, development and regeneration. Immature embryos sourced during summer were found to be far more responsive in vitro than those sourced during winter. In an attempt to overcome this problem, IEs were sourced from sorghum grown under summer conditions in either a temperature controlled glasshouse or a growth chamber. However, the
performance of these explants was still inferior to that of natural summer-sourced explants.

Leaf whorls, mature embryos, shoot tips and leaf primordia were found to be unsuitable as explants for establishing ECLs in sorghum cultivars SA281 and 296B. Using the florets of immature inflorescences (IFs) as explants, however, ECLs were established and regenerated for these cultivars, as well as for cultivar Tx430, using callus induction media, SCIM, and regeneration media, VWRM. The best in vitro responses, from the largest possible sized IFs, were obtained using plants at the FL-2 stage (where the last fully opened leaf was two leaves away from the flag leaf). Immature inflorescences could be stored at 25oC for up to three days without affecting their in vitro responses. Compared to IEs, the IFs were more robust in tissue culture and showed responses which were season and growth condition independent.

A micropropagation protocol for sorghum was developed in this study. The optimum plant growth regulator (PGR) combination for the micropropagation of in vitro regenerated plantlets was found to be 1.0 mg/L BAP in combination with 0.5 mg/L NAA. With this protocol, cultivars 296B and SA281 produced an average of 57 and 13 off-shoots per plantlet, respectively. The plantlets were successfully acclimatised and developed into phenotypically normal plants that set seeds. A simplified acclimatisation protocol for in vitro regenerated plantlets was also developed. This protocol involved deflasking in vitro plantlets with at least 2 fully-opened healthy leaves and at least 3 roots longer than 1.5 cm, washing the media from the roots with running tap water, planting in 100 mm pots and placing in plastic trays covered with a clear plastic bag in a plant growth chamber. After seven days, the corners of the plastic cover were opened and the bags were completely removed after 10 days. All plantlets were successfully acclimatised regardless of whether 1:1 perlite:potting mix, potting mix, UC mix or vermiculite were used as potting substrates.

Parameters were optimised for Agrobacterium-mediated transformation (AMT) of cultivars SA281, 296B and Tx430. The optimal conditions were the use of
Agrobacterium strain LBA4404 at an inoculum density of 0.5 OD600nm, heat shock at 43oC for 3 min, use of the surfactant Pluronic F-68 (0.02% w/v) in the inoculation media with a pH of 5.2 and a 3 day co-cultivation period in dark at 22oC. Using these parameters, high frequencies of transient GFP expression was observed in IEs precultured on callus initiation media for 1-7 days as well as in four weeks old IE- and IF-derived callus. Cultivar SA281 appeared very sensitive to Agrobacterium since all tissue turned necrotic within two weeks post-exposure. For cultivar 296B, GFP expression was observed up to 20 days post co-cultivation but no stably transformed plants were regenerated. Using cultivar Tx430, GFP was expressed for up to 50 days post co-cultivation. Although no stably transformed plants of this cultivar were regenerated, this was most likely due to the use of unsuitable regeneration media.

Parameters were optimised for transformation by particle bombardment (PB) of cultivars SA281, 296B and Tx430. The optimal conditions were use of 3-7 days old IEs and 4 weeks old IF callus, 4 hour pre- and post-bombardment osmoticum treatment, use of 0.6 µm gold microparticles, helium pressure of 1500 kPa and target distance of 15 cm. Using these parameters for PB, transient GFP expression was observed for up to 14, 30 and 50 days for cultivars SA281, 296B and Tx430, respectively. Further, the use of PB resulted in less tissue necrosis compared to AMT for the respective cultivars. Despite the presence of transient GFP expression, no stably transformed plants were regenerated.

The establishment of regenerable ECLs and the optimization of AMT and PB parameters in this study provides a platform for future efforts to develop an efficient transformation protocol for sorghum. The development of GM sorghum will be an important step towards improving its agronomic properties as well as its exploitation for biofuel production.

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ID Code: 50977
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Harding, Robert, Becker, Douglas, Geijskes, Robert, & Khanna, Harjeet
Keywords: sorghum, transformation system
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 19 Jun 2012 05:08
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 02:19

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